Saturday, February 29, 2020

A quick Footnote to the Clown Award

 A quick Footnote to the Clown Award

I am in a way amused by all the references to the vague, amorphous, pour-in-you-own-brand-of-paranoia blob that is the "Deep State."

When I first came across the term back in the dreaded '60s, it had a relatively specific meaning: It referred to the clandestine activities of agencies such as the CIA and NSA, undertaken with the full awareness and direction of the Executive branch but usually without the knowledge or approval of Congress (except, occasionally, for certain committee chairs) and always without the knowledge or approval of the public. It was the notion of the White House, acting as the United States, having a secret foreign policy different from, even at odds with, the publicly declared one, one that operated beyond the reach of, often enough in breach of, the law.

The idea was considered quite shocking. It was, indeed, an innocent time.

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

The Erickson Report, Page 3: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages

We wrap up with our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages, with this time only time for one of each.

Our Outrage came on February 25 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to slam the courthouse door in the faces of the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot down over the border by an American agent.

The court's five radical right wingers held that the parents could not use American courts to sue Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who killed their unarmed 15-year-old son in 2010.

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said the case is "tragic," but that strong border security and international relations issues led to the ruling against the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca.

“Since regulating the conduct of agents at the border unquestionably has national security implications, the risk of undermining border security provides reasons to hesitate" about allowing the parents to sue in American courts, Alito wrote.

This is insane, utterly and completely insane. "National security implications?" What are the national security implications of telling the Border Patrol you can't start shooting at people in Mexico - start shooting and killing people across an international border - without consequences?

Hey, here's a security implication for you: What are the security implications for Mexicans when the US Supreme Court says in effect that US government agents can kill Mexican teenagers with impunity? All they have to do is claim some kind was throwing rocks at them and - even though video of the incident denies it - they will walk.

And impunity is exactly what we are talking about: US officials refused to prosecute Mesa, and the Obama administration - note, Obama, not Tweetie-pie - refused a request to extradite him so that he could face charges in Mexico. When the parents of the boy tried to sue Mesa, federal judges dismissed their claims and now the Supreme Court has done it with finality.

And so a boy lies dead, his parents are left to mourn with no recourse, and nobody - except the parents - pays any price. Because "national security."

So yeah, Alito calls it "tragic," a word that should be reserved for cases involving accidents or what are called acts of God. This was neither. This was now-officially sanctioned murder. That is not tragic, that is despicable. As are the five.

=

Our Clown will only take a moment because it is so farcical that simply stating it is enough. No expansion is required.

Rush Limburger has stated that the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was faked by the "Deep State" in order to sucker George Bush the lesser into invading so he would be embarrassed when no WMDs were found.

The Erickson Report, Page 2: Listen Up! The Democratic Party and media establishments are not on the side of progressive change

Listen Up! The Democratic Party and media establishments are not on the side of progressive change

So it develops that on February 22 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar at his campaign headquarters in Laredo and voiced hope that in the party primary on March 3 Cuellar would achieve a “resounding victory” over challenger Jessica Cisneros.

“We assume that Henry will win," Pelosi said, but "We want this to be not only a victory, but a resounding victory."

Henry Cuellar is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. He votes with Tweetie-pie nearly 70% of the time, has an "A" rating from the NRA, is anti-choice, is a top recipient of money from the private prison and fossil fuel lobbies, and is the first-ever congressional Democrat to receive reelection support from Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC funded by Charles Koch Among his other supporters are the American Bankers Association, the Texas Bankers Association, and the US Chamber of Commerce. He is thoroughly wired into corporate America and the banks.

On the other hand, Jessica Cisneros is a progressive with a solidly progressive agenda, an immigration and human rights attorney running a union-backed campaign fueled by small donors and who accepts no corporate money.

But Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would rather have Cuellar than Cisneros on the ballot and "resoundingly" so, even though the district is considered a safe Democratic one: In 2016 - remember, this is Texas - Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 percentage points over Tweetie-pie. In 2018 the GOPpers didn't even put up a candidate and Cueller got 84% of the vote against a libertarian.

And this is not the only example of this, of the Democratic party establishment rallying one of its own over a challenger, even when that challenger represented more of what the party claims to support. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted that
There are Ds in safe blue seats who side with the NRA, are anti lgbtq+, and yet are protected because they advance the interests of big donors, fossil fuels, etc.
What's more, this is not even new. Two notorious examples:

In 2010, Bill Halter primaried incumbent Senator Blance Lincoln of Arkansas. Halter, Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, was hardly some radical; but he was a little to her left and thereby in fact was that much closer to the party's platform than she was. What's more, he consistently outdid her in head-to-head match-ups against the likely GOPper candidate.

Even so, the party establishment closed ranks around Lincoln to the point where in the closing days of the race, they openly campaigned against labor on her behalf. With that support, she won the primary - and, as the polls had predicted, went on to lose in November.

Even earlier: In 2006, Ned Lamont primaried Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on an anti-war platform. He won the primary, upon which Lieberman ran as an independent with the not entirely implicit support of the Democratic party establishment, which gave only perfunctory support to Lamont. Lieberman won, much to the relief of the institutional Democratic party.

Nancy Pelosi
Listen Up, people! Get it through your heads: The Democratic party establishment is not on our side. The Nancy Pelosis of this world are not on our side. Not on the side of average working people, or of the unemployed, or of the poor, or of the struggling, or of the victims of discrimination and bigotry, or even of the future of this plant.

Yes, certainly there are individuals who have been and are fighting the good fight - I've already named one - and certainly, there are individuals who were or are on our side on specific issues. But as a group, as a whole, they are not. As a group, as a whole, they are on our side insofar as and only insofar as it's necessary to protect their positions, their privileges, and their sinecures.

They'll ignore us, fight us, resist us, and then for the sake of their own benefit, they'll try to take credit for what we gained by our efforts.

After his victory in the Nevada caucuses, Bernie Sanders tweeted of the Republican and Democratic party establishments "They can't stop us." In response, longtime Democratic party strategist Joe Lockhart tweeted "The Democratic establishment gave us civil rights, voting rights, the assault weapons ban, social security and Medicare. What have you done Senator?"

Hey Lockhart: You didn't "give" us anything! We won it. All of it. Every one of those things came as the result of years, usually decades, of organizing, marching, protesting, lobbying, petitions, letters, phone calls, court suits, nonviolent civil disobedience, and yes, voting. We did it. Not you. So I turn the question back to you, Lockhart: Can you, can anyone in the Democratic party establishment, name one gain that has come without significant outside pressure? Can you name one advance that originated in the upper echelons of the Democratic party establishment? You can't because you didn't "give" us squat.

And you're not going to "give" us single-payer health insurance, a living wage, or a livable future for ourselves and our children. Remember Nancy Pelosi snidely calling the Green New Deal "The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?" Remember that? None of that will happen, none of those gains will be made, without us constantly, constantly, pushing you, taking what we gain and coming back again and again for more.

They are not on our side. You, Mr. Lockhart, are not on our side.

Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, I still recall with bitterness how during the Obama years she blocked House votes on the Peoples Budget produced annually by the Congressional Progressive Caucus as well as on progressive motions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - even though they likely wouldn't pass at that point - because she was not going to allow the demonstration of any opposition to Obama policies among Democrats.

And it's not just the political establishment, its the media establishment as well, which can easily be seen in the treatment of Bernie Sanders. Now, full disclosure: I supported Sanders in 2016 and I support him this time, but what I'm addressing here is not because of him in particular; I strongly suspect that if he wasn't running, Elizabeth Warren, who is the most progressive of the other candidates, would be getting much the same treatment, getting the same "too far left, too radical, can't win" line so  beloved of the pundits. Maybe it wouldn't be to the same degree, but yes it would be there.

The night of the Nevada caucuses, Chris Matthews of MSNBC said
I'm wondering if Democratic moderates want Bernie Sanders to be President? Maybe that's too exciting a question to raise. Do they want Bernie to take over the Democratic Party in perpetuity? Maybe they'd rather wait four years and put in a Democrat that they like.
In other words, he was suggesting that the party leaders would prefer four more years of Tweetie-pie to a Sanders presidency.

During a radio interview on February 21, MSNBC contributor and journalism professor Jason Johnson said, referring to Sanders,
I don't care how many people from the island of misfit black girls that you throw out there to defend you on a regular basis.
Informed by the host that he had "crossed the line," Johnson, who is African-American, replied "I don't care."

Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, approvingly quoted a column calling Sanders' supporters a "digital brownshirt brigade." Chris Matthews compared Sanders' win in Nevada with the Nazi takeover of France in 1940 - for which, be fair, he apologized the next day.

Bernie Sanders
On February 22, longtime Democratic strategist James Carville called Sanders supporters "fools" and the same as climate deniers for believing the excitement his campaign generates could bring out people who don't usually vote.

And then of course there is the plethora of "Sanders is just like Trump" articles, all of them with the unstated subhead of "If you think Tweetie-pie is too extreme, you have to think the same of Sanders."

A typical example is Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, declaring in his own paper on February 23 that Sanders and Tweetie-pie "both reject the reality of climate change." How? Tweetie-pie, of course, by considering it a hoax, while Sanders does it by the “fantasy extremism” of his climate plan. That is, he takes climate change too seriously, is in too much of a hurry to get something done. And who does Hiatt rely on for a non-extreme plan? The CEO of Total Oil, one of the seven largest oil companies in the world.

But nothing illustrates the bias as clearly as the foofaraw over Sanders being pushed on a statement he made in 1985 praising some aspects of the rule of Fidel Castro, specifically his literacy program and health care. He has been asked about it twice in town halls and been attacked not only by Democrats in Florida, but some of his opponents for the nomination for offering anything other than unreserved condemnation for anything to do with Fidel Castro.

Leaving aside the question of if people will or even should care about an opinion he expressed 35 years ago, the utter dishonesty of how this has been dealt with in the media is I was going to say appalling but I think telling is the better word.

First, consider this:
- Cubans not only have the highest life expectancy in the geographical region, but also place among the top five in the world.
- In 2014, the country was praised by Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, as a world leader in the medical sphere.
- UNESCO has rated Cuba's as the best education system in Latin America. Literacy is at 99.8%.

Simply put, what Bernie Sanders said in 1985, what he to his credit stands by today, was true. He did not endorse Castro's regime, he did not excuse the oppression, the political imprisonment, the denial of freedoms. But he did make a true statement about certain social programs. And as he said, "truth is truth."

But truth is not good enough. Truth is not a defense when it comes to describing those who the political establishment has declared beyond the pale, nor is it a defense when the speaker is an outsider, is a threat to the establishment that needs to be crushed.

You don't believe me? Quote:
Castro brought superb systems of healthcare and education to his people.
That was Jimmy Carter, speaking in 2002. Or how about this:
The United States recognizes the progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care.
That was Barack Obama, speaking in Cuba on March, 21, 2016. And that wasn't even the first time he said it.

Do you recall any uproar about either of those? Do you recall either of those men being read out of political life on the grounds that they were "embracing a dictator?"

Of course not because it didn't happen because neither of them was thought to be an outsider, to be not a member of the establishment and therefore a threat to it.

And so Sanders continues to get pummeled. Not because he lied but because he spoke an unpopular truth - or importantly more to the point, a truth that the media and Democratic party establishments will strive and are striving to turn into an unpopular truth, not because they want to crush Bernie Sanders in particular but because they want to crush any challenge to their social and political hegemony.

They are not on our side. And they will continue to not be on our side, to ignore us, to dismiss us, to deny us as the lord of the manor denied the bastard son he fathered by the servant girl even when that boy was the legitimate heir - that is, to bring this back to reality, to deny us even when we represent the majority. It will go on until we make it impossible for them to continue to do so.

There is yet much to be gained, much to strive for, allies and alliances to be made and lost, and undoubtedly many unavoidable compromises to be made along the way. But never forget: They are not on our side.

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Anti-Palestinian bias marks media response to "the Deal of the Century"

The Erickson Report, Page 1: Anti-Palestinian bias marks media response to "the Deal of the Century"

Last show, I went into the so-called "Deal of the Century," which others have called the steal of the century, the proposed phony "peace deal" for Israel and Palestinians, showing how it's a totally bogus attempt to cement and justify Israeli domination over the Palestinians. I said that this time to spend some time looking at US media reactions to this what i called Ripoff of the Century, reactions which tell us a lot about the way the political and media establishment view that part of the world and the people in it.

And I'm going to do that, but first there's an important update, one showing that the agreement is not only bogus, but that the Israeli government doesn't even mean to live up to the promises it supposedly made in it.

J Street, which describes itself as a pro-Israel liberal group, reports that over the past week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyoyo has announced plans to build thousands of settlement units in and around East Jerusalem, including several that cross what have been identified as red lines, settlements slicing through Palestinian neighborhoods, settlements whose construction would devastate any chance for a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

For over two decades, Israeli governments have heeded advice from experts, the US, and other governments and refrained from crossing these red lines. They've undertaken other harmful settlement expansions, but until now they have refrained from pursuing these plans.

No more. J Street reports that Netanyoyo
has painted a clear picture of what it looks like when a government of Israel no longer even feigns interest in resolving its conflict with the Palestinians, is unbound by the rule of law and is given an unquestioning green light for its plans by the United States. ... [T]he government of Israel has outlined its plan to forever be the only sovereign state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
So an "agreement" that is not only a fraud, it's a blatant lie.

But - I did say I said would talk about how major voices in US mainstream reacted to plan when it was released  because those reactions reflected and revealed a basic underlying assumption of that media about the conflict, an assumption that the Palestinians, in the end, just aren't that important. That their concerns, their hopes, their desires for justice, their economic, physical, and political condition, really just don't matter. That they can be, like any strange object, interesting to look at but ultimately remain unworthy of significant engagement, of the expenditure of any energy or conscience.

For example, the NY Times’ Bret Stephens responded to the plan's announcement by writing that "Nearly every time the Arab side said no, it wound up with less" - which, rather than underlining Israel's "my way of the highway" "negotiating" style, merely to him demonstrated to his own satisfaction that the Palestinians should just give up and accept the plan.

David Ignatius of the Washington Post disingenuously asked "Palestinian antagonism is understandable, but what alternative would they and their supporters propose?”

I dunno, maybe an actual Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, including withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, the lifting of the embargo on Gaza, and some symbolic right of return - the same thing Palestinians have been offering for decades with no response? I mean, the Palestinians can't even offer to formally recognize Israel since they did it 27 years ago in a deal worked out between Yasir Arafat and Yitzak Rabin.

Similarly, the New York Times editorialized that "This could well be the last opportunity for their own state that the Palestinians will ever have or at least the makings of the best deal they can expect. ... [T]hat may not be a just outcome, but it is perhaps becoming the realistic one." In other words, just give up.

The idea that the US and Israel should be condemned for producing this "unjust outcome," that there should be a demand that they do better - much better - just doesn't rise to the level of consideration. Because the Palestinians are not important enough for that.

Then there was Thomas Friedman of the New York Times advising the Palestinians to "try to make some lemonade out of these Trump lemons" because "It’s not as if they have a lot of great options, and their resistance to the Israeli occupation has gotten them nowhere." Again, they should just give up.

The idea that instead of dismissing Palestinian needs as not important enough to merit concern, he should be demanding that Israel do better, do justice, is not even on the table.

Instead, he would have the Palestinians say "Yes, but we will use this plan as a floor in negotiations with Israelis, not a ceiling" because that "would surely gain a lot of US, Arab and European good will." If resistance to the occupation has "gotten then nowhere" - which is not true; it's only because of resistance to occupation that the idea of a Palestinian state is discussed at all - but if resistance has gotten them nowhere, exactly what has acquiescence gotten them?

Of course, Friedman is also the one who in the wake of a massive Israeli assault on Gaza in late 2008, an assault that in his words "inflict[ed] a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population," he was the one who said that death and pain it was simply a case of "educating" Hamas.

He was also the one who infamously said that the whole purpose of the Iraq war was to tell some country in "that part of the world" - it didn't have to be Iraq, he said, it could have been Saudi Arabia, it could have been Pakistan - but the purpose was to tell some country in that part of the world to "Suck. On. This." So maybe he's not the best place to look for someone with a concern with justice.

Another thing for which we shouldn't look in the media is any sense at all the the US has ever been anything other than a good-faith actor in the conflict, has ever been anything other than a just and impartial mediator in what has passed for negotiations these past decades.

Thus, the NYT says the Steal of the Century is
the latest of numerous American efforts to settle the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians
while the Wall Street Journal holds that
for half a century, American presidents have tried to find a path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But consider this: According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1946 the US has given Israel over $108 billion in military aid. We are now pledged to give Israel $3.8B a year every year through FY2028. The CRS notes that
In 2019, Israel is more secure and prosperous than in previous decades. And yet, despite its status as a high income country, military power, and top global weapons exporter, Israel remains largely dependent on the United States for the procurement of certain key high-cost U.S. weapon systems, such as combat aircraft.
Which means that if the US actually wanted a "path to peace," if it actually wanted to "settle the seemingly intractable conflict" on balanced and fair terms that could protect and secure both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, terms that would require Israel to surrender its imperial aims on the West Bank and admit its guilt in the impoverishment of Gaza, if the US actually wanted to pursue a just peace, it has the power to do so. It has the leverage to force the dominant power - Israel - to acknowledge and respect the rights and just aspirations of its weaker adversary.

The fact that the US won't do that, the fact the even suggesting that idea seems absurd and impossible, is proof enough that the US has not been an honest broker, a good-faith mediator.

And the fact that there is zero chance of such an idea becoming discussed in the mainstream media brings us back around to Stephens, Ignatius, Friedman and the rest of the elite media, who are essentially united in telling the Palestinians to give in, take whatever crumbs fall off the table, and don't expect or even hope for better even as they spiritually starve for lack of justice.

Back in 2002, Moshe Ya'alon, then Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, told the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz that it needed to be "burned into the Palestinian consciousness" that they are a defeated people. That view may yet not be burned into Palestinian minds, but it clearly has been into the minds of the American media.

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Erickson Report for February 26 to March 10



The Erickson Report for February 26 to March 10

This episode:

Anti-Palestinian bias marks media response to "the Deal of the Century"
https://jstreet.org/press-releases/aipac-and-all-pro-israel-leaders-must-oppose-netanyahus-disastrous-settlement-plans-in-and-around-east-jerusalem/#.XlWX1kp7mUl
https://fair.org/home/media-urge-palestinians-to-take-crumbs-because-democracy-is-not-on-offer/
https://whoviating.blogspot.com/2009/01/stop-in-name-of-just-please-stop.html
https://fair.org/home/ending-palestinian-statehood-as-path-to-palestinian-statehood/
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf

The Democratic Party and media establishments are not on the side of progressive change
https://www.alternet.org/2020/02/shameful-pelosi-ripped-for-boosting-koch-backed-texas-democrat-over-progressive-challenger/
https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1231412884539879424
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Halter
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ned_Lamont
https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/22/politics/bernie-sanders-2020/index.html
https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/07/politics/pelosi-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-green-new-deal/index.html
https://cpcbudget.org/
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/22/msnbcs-chris-matthews-suggests-four-more-years-trump-might-be-better-democratic
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/22/deep-disdain-masquerading-journalism-msnbc-pundit-under-fire-calling-sanders
https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/nbc-news-chuck-todd-under-155123651.html
https://www.mediaite.com/tv/chris-matthews-issues-on-air-apology-to-bernie-sanders-i-was-wrong/
https://www.mediaite.com/politics/james-carville-says-people-who-think-bernie-will-beat-trump-are-as-stupid-as-climate-deniers/
https://us20.campaign-archive.com/?e=20cc5fa835&u=e6457f9552de19bc603e65b9c&id=9b17399792
https://www.internations.org/cuba-expats/guide/life-in-cuba-15677/healthcare-and-education-in-cuba-2
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article240627047.html
https://townhall.com/columnists/humbertofontova/2018/08/04/bernie-sanders-smitten-with-cubas-healthcare-n2506548
https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article67364722.html

Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages
https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/02/25/court-closes-courthouse-door-on-slain-mexican-teens-family/23934090/
https://www.mediamatters.org/rush-limbaugh/rush-limbaugh-says-deep-state-faked-evidence-about-wmds-iraq-embarrass-george-w-bush

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Erickson Report, Page 8: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrage]

The Erickson Report, Page 8: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrage]

[Because the discussion of the "Deal of the Century" ran so long, I had to edit on the fly and the part about "non-persistent" mines didn't make it to air.]

Living in a sea of Outrages and with time for just one, I chose this one because it has gotten, I think, too little attention.
In 1997, something called the Ottawa Process lead to the Mine Ban Treaty, an agreement to ban landmines, which are notoriously indiscriminate and persist to cause injury long after the conflict in which they were used is over.

It went into force in 1999. Today, 164 nations are party to the Treaty. Despite helping to develop it, the US is not among the signers.

However, in September 2014 the Obama administration announced a commitment not to use antipersonnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula and not to assist, encourage, or induce other nations to use, stockpile, produce, or transfer antipersonnel mines outside of Korea. This came three months after the US forswore future production or acquisition of antipersonnel landmines.

So while the US still was not a signatory to the Treaty, it had taken a big step towards being in line with it.

But on January 31, the Tweetie-pie White House reversed that directive, allowing combatant commanders to use antipersonnel landmines anywhere the "specific operational context" allows.

result of a landmine in the war in Yemen
This is attached to a claim that landmines are necessary for US forces and that not using them "could place them at a severe disadvantage." However, the US has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991, has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and has destroyed millions of stockpiled mines. And yet somehow the military manages to carry on.

The claim is that the mines to be used in the future are an advanced, "non-persistent" type intended to "reduce unintended harm to civilians" but that's a verbal fig leaf to cover the fact that the mines are indiscriminate weapons that still can't tell the difference between friend and foe, innocent and enemy, adult and child, human and animal (note they only promise to "reduce" the number of civilians killed and maimed).

Moreover, Jeff Abramson, senior fellow with the Arms Control Association, dismisses the "advanced" landmines outright. "Technical solutions to make landmines self-destruct or otherwise labeled as 'smart.'" he said, "have failed to work as advertised" and have been rejected by the countries that have signed onto the Treaty.

What makes this especially outrageous is that you know damn well that the only reason this was done is that it was an Obama-era policy and Tweetie-pie seems determined to make it like the Obama years never happened.

On all accounts, an Outrage.

The Erickson Report, Page 7: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages {the Clowns]

The Erickson Report, Page 7: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Clowns]

[Note: The discussion of the "Deal of the Century" was long enough that I only had time for two Clowns and one Outrage - and it turned out that is ran so long that I had to edit on the fly and the first Clown below never made it to air.]

Now for our regular feature, Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages.

Our first Clown this time is MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, whose terror at the thought of a Bernie Sanders presidency prompted a bizarre rant following the February 7 Democratic debate.

He started by saying he’d keep his opinions on socialism to himself and then almost immediately kept  his opinions to himself by declaring that "I believe if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War there would have been executions in Central Park and I might have been one of the ones getting executed. And certain other people would be there cheering, okay?"

He then suggested Bernie Sanders might have been among those cheering: "I don’t know who Bernie supports over these years. I don’t know what he means by socialist."

When Chris Hayes interrupted to say that Sanders is "pretty clearly" in favor of the type of socialism found in countries like Denmark, a country whose brand of socialism Matthews had already said was "harmless," Matthews responded with "Is he? How do you know? Did he tell you that?"

Um, yeah, he did. With his policies. With his speeches. With his decades-long record. Hey Matthews, you do recall you job title says "journalist," right?

Nicole Saphier
But this has got be our top Clown for this time out because it is just so damn funny.

On the February 7 edition of Fox and Friends, Dr. Nicole Saphier, a "medical contributor" for Faux News, declared that "Americans are dying younger, from largely preventable disease and bad health policy decisions."

And what was the bad policy decision that lead to these preventable deaths? Why, it was the Affordable Care Act! How? Because by enabling more people to have health insurance, it "took away the incentivizations for good behavior choices."

Yes - because having better access to health care is bad for you.

My gosh, what a Clown.

By the way, the decline in life expectancy was caused by increases in drug overdoses and suicides, not heart disease, contrary to what Dr. - Doctor? Really? - Dr. Sapphire suggested.


The Erickson Report, Page 6: "Deal of the Century" - A Footnote

The Erickson Report, Page 6: "Deal of the Century" - A Footnote

[A note about sources: Pages 1-6 were originally to be one long piece and I usually only cite a reference the first time I use it. Which means some things in this page may be based on references cited on an earlier page.]

Okay, the Footnote.

On February 9, the Israeli government instituted a blockade on Palestinian agricultural exports through Jordan. Trucks loaded with produce were stopped by quickly-erected Israeli blast walls and turned back from the border.
This was at the order of Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. He said it is payback for the fact that on February 2, Palestinians ceased importing goods from Israel.

Okay, two problems: One, the West Bank is under Israeli military occupation, and therefore is governed by the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations, which among other things lay out the occupier's responsibilities in areas it occupies, which include not interfering with people's abilities to make a living, which Bennett's order clearly does.

That is, he did it, because, y'see, he is totally outraged that anyone would boycott Israel over its human rights abuses, so his response is to commit human rights abuses.

The other problem is that the Palestinians are clearly within their rights not to buy from Israel, just as anyone for who those agricultural exports were intended would be within their rights to refuse to buy from Palestinians. But Bennett is not refusing to buy certain goods, he's imposing a blockade, preventing someone else from buying those goods out of his own, let's call it, imperial or better put imperialist pique.

If you needed more proof that Palestinians of the West Bank are not free agents but rather an occupied and oppressed people, I can't imagine what it would be.

The Erickson Report, Page 5: "Deal of the Century" - An Old Game

The Erickson Report, Page 5: "Deal of the Century" - An Old Game

[A note about sources: Pages 1-6 were originally to be one long piece and I usually only cite a reference the first time I use it. Which means some things in this page may be based on references cited on an earlier page.]

Could that be true? Could it have been intended to be rejected? Absolutely - because we've seen this game before.

The year was 2000. Seven years earlier, 1993, Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin had agreed on a peace deal that formally recognized Israel's right to exist while granting the Palestinians limited self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now, with limited movement toward greater Palestinian self-rule, the relative peace that had existed for those seven years was at risk.

Bill Clinton wanted to meet with then-Israeli PM Ehud Barak and Arafat. Arafat was reluctant, thinking nothing would come of it and a failure would be worse than not doing it at all. But Clinton convinced Arafat to come by promising him that there would be no recriminations.

At that meeting, Barak made a supposedly "generous offer" to Arafat, involving a Palestinian state in Gaza and something like 90% of the West Bank. Arafat refused. The talks broke down and Clinton returned to Washington and despite his promise, denounced Arafat for the talks' failure. Thus, it was said, Arafat's "true face" was exposed, that of a man determined not to make peace with Israel.

There was just one problem: It wasn't true. The deal that Barak proposed was one that the Israelis knew in advance Arafat would not, could not, accept. For one thing, the 10% of the West Bank not part of this Palestinian state would be occupied by Israeli "security corridors" connecting settlements and outposts, which would have sliced the West Bank into a bunch of disconnected pieces, just like this time, with Palestinians needing the permission of the Israeli military to get from one part of their country to another. And it required relinquishing any "right of return."

It was nothing but a propaganda ploy designed to head off the possibility of a settlement. As subsequent events have shown, it was one of the most successful PR coups of modern times.

And now we're seeing a re-run: a supposedly "generous" offer known to be unacceptable, intending to use its rejection as justification for continued oppression.

One person said that "The real threat to peace is not whether the Trump plan will fail but whether it will succeed." The truth is, I'm not sure which is worse.

But I say this, knowing that it is not my life on the line and not my choice to make, but I still have to say that it seems to me that if you're going to go down either way, better to do it as the bull in the ring than the pig in the abattoir.

I'm going to stop here except for one revealing footnote, which I'll get to in a second. Next time I intend to spend some time looking at US media reactions to this Ripoff of the Century, reactions which tell us a lot about the way the political and media establishment view the world.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: "Deal of the Century" - What about Israel?

The Erickson Report, Page 4: "Deal of the Century" - What about Israel?

[A note about sources: Pages 1-6 were originally to be one long piece and I usually only cite a reference the first time I use it. Which means some things in this page may be based on references cited on an earlier page.]

Israel gives up nothing, zilch, zero, nada in this deal except - maybe - for what it already decided it didn't want. For example, Israel oh so graciously promised a four-year halt to construction of settlements in the West Bank, we're told to give time to work out the details. Except, no, like the man in the movie Independence Day said, that's not entirely accurate - meaning it is entirely false. Israel only promised not to build new settlements in areas where there are none now, which it hadn't been planning to do. Expansion of existing settlements can continue apace.

Even the clause supposedly placing a moratorium on the demolition of Palestinian homes and structures doesn't apply to the demolition of any structure that Israel says is a security risk - an excuse used as recently as July, when 100 Palestinian apartments in a part of East Jerusalem were leveled. In fact, it doesn't even have to pose a risk, it could be a punitive demolition after some supposed act of terrorism -with no requirement, of course, that those in those homes have any connection to the act. Which is collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

It is allowed to continue to maintain it has no responsibility for conditions in Gaza, even though is called, quite accurately, world's largest outdoor prison, with access of people and goods into and out of the area entirely controlled by Israel.

The plan also allows for the annexation of significant parts, in fact 30%, of the West Bank - that is, no longer simply occupying the area but literally stealing the land and making it part of the State of Israel. That is a transparent violation of both international law and UN resolutions, but Netanyoyo doesn't care and as long as the US doesn't, he doesn't have to. In fact, he wanted to move immediately to annex the settlements, but backed off after the US objected because there is supposed to be a committee dealing with it.

To show just how farcical this whole process is, Netanyoyo said he agreed to hold off because "this can't be a one-sided act" and the other side he meant was the US, not the Palestinians.

But of course that's in keeping with the entire document, which one source described as reading like it was suffused with white supremicism.

Only the Israeli side is worthy of empathy, of having its  history understood and its claims to the land acknowledged.

Only Israel is worthy of having its desires for a homeland, for nationhood, be embraced.

Only Israel is worthy of having security - in fact, the document says “The security portion of this vision was developed based on our best understanding of the security requirements of the State of Israel" - and the security interests of an oppressed, occupied people be damned.

Only Israelis are worthy of charting their own future.

Only Israel and Israelis and in fact the more equal Jewish Israelis are worthy of justice.

The plan is so blatantly one-sided, so blatantly unjust, so blatantly beyond the farthest bounds of reason that more than one commentator has suggested that the plan may have been designed to be rejected by the Palestinians, a rejection which then would be used to justify a claim that the Palestinians are not interested in peace and so Israel, for its own security, needs to just go ahead and do what it was going to do anyway. "We offered them a state," they'll say, "but they've made it clear they are interested in nothing but our destruction."

The Erickson Report, Page 3: "Deal of the Century" - a "State of Palestine"

The Erickson Report, Page 3: "Deal of the Century" - a "State of Palestine"

[A note about sources: Pages 1-6 were originally to be one long piece and I usually only cite a reference the first time I use it. Which means some things in this page may be based on references cited on an earlier page.]

Finally we come to the centerpiece of this piece of trash: a proposed Palestinian state. Except that it isn't a state. It is, as already noted, "a 21st century bantustan." Even that barely describes it. This is not a state, it's an un-state.

The first map below shows the proposed un-state. Connecting the various communities are segregated Palestinian and Israeli roads, much like in the region today. The blue circles with the arrows indicate bridges and tunnels connecting various areas of the un-state, the most prominent being a tunnel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The brownish-green circles mark off Israeli settlements to remain under Israeli control and jurisdiction despite being inside the borders of the un-state, with the lines marking their access roads.

Someone described this un-state as looking like a very gerrymandered Congressional district, but it's worse than that.

the un-State of Palestine
Take a close look at the map and you start to realize that, unlike the most gerrymandered district, this un-state is not even one contiguous territory.

In fact, Ben Silverstein, Digital Director at J Street, a self-described liberal pro-Israel lobbying group, said the shading of the map actually gives a very generous notion of the proposal and that the second map below gives a truer picture. When the UN's Michael Lynk called it "scattered archipelagos," he was not exaggerating.

How anyone can even pretend this is a serious proposal for a Palestinian state is incomprehensible - except for accomplished liars like Tweetie-pie and Netanyoyo. Under the Deal of the Century, this un-state has no external borders, no right to defend its security, no geographic basis for a viable economy, no freedom of movement. Israel will control all security, all territorial waters, all international crossings of this un-state and can even maintain a permanent naval blockade.

And in case you thought they missed something, the text stipulates that “solely as determined by the State of Israel, the State of Israel will rely on blimps, drones and similar aerial equipment for security purposes.” That is, this un-state doesn't control its own airspace, either, and can be freely spied on by the Israeli military.

And as if all that wasn't enough, the glorious un-state of Palestine only comes into being if a series of preconditions are met, including an array of legal, political, fiscal, and security reforms, with Israel being the sole arbiter if they have been met. Bizarrely but I expect unsurprisingly, the only place human rights are mentioned in the plan is as a requirement placed on the un-state of Palestine.

And even if those preconditions were ever met, under this plan you'd have an un-state where Israel not only controls its land, sea, air, and security, Israel also controls its foreign policy: The un-state of Palestine would be barred from entering into treaties and would require Israel's assent to join any international organization.

a truer picture
Israel even controls its immigration. You know, I expect, that Jews anywhere in the diaspora have a right of return to Israel, but under this agreement not only would Palestinians have no right of return to Israel, they'd have no right of return to the un-state of Palestine. The text says "the rights of Palestinian refugees to immigrate into the State of Palestine shall be limited in accordance with security arrangements and regulated by various factors including increased security risks to the State of Israel" from there being more Palestinians around. Put another way, the very existence of Palestinians is to be regarded as a threat to Israel - and so of course the more of them around the greater the threat. QED.

Oh but let's be fair: Israel wants to help with immigration to the un-state of Palestine. One provision of the Deal of the Century is for a land swap that would take the so-called Triangle area in central Israel, now heavily populated by Palestinian citizens of Israel, and shift it to the new un-state, thereby reducing the number of non-Jews living in Israel, a long-standing dream of the Israeli right wing backing Netanyoyo.

And if even after somehow surrendering, capitulating, far enough to meet all these requirements, if after that the Palestinians felt that Israel was still violating their human rights, they could do absolutely nothing about it. A provision of the proposal says that the un-state of Palestine will
Take no action, and shall dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States, and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and all other tribunals; [and] Take no action against any Israeli or United States citizen before Interpol or any non-Israeli or United States legal system."

Quick sidebar: The International Criminal Court is being dragged, somewhat against its will, but being dragged toward conducting an investigation into alleged war crimes committed against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, a fact which puts an exclamation point on that provision of the plan. Israel, predictably, responded by calling the Court anti-Semitic. Because as we all know, any criticism, even potential criticism, of Israel is obviously and by definition anti-Semitic. Just ask the people trying to make the BDS movement illegal.

I think that's enough - way more than enough - to see why this so-called "deal" is a vile fraud. But wait, we're not finished. Because the deal giveth and the deal taketh away - only it taketh from the Palestinians and giveth to Israel.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Erickson Report, Page 2: "Deal of the Century" - What's wrong with it

The Erickson Report, Page 2: "Deal of the Century" - What's wrong with it

[A note about sources: Pages 1-6 were originally to be one long piece and I usually only cite a reference the first time I use it. Which means some things in this page may be based on references cited on an earlier page.]

Okay, lots of people, including people knowledgeable about the issue, don't like it. So what's wrong with it? We can start with what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu said at the White House ceremony announcing the plan.

Netanyahu said the Palestinians would be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, cede the entire Jordan Valley, disarm Hamas, and surrender any claims to a right to return, and accept an "undivided" Jerusalem as the "eternal capital" of Israel. He said to Tweetie-pie that "Your peace plan offers the Palestinians a pathway to a future state" but "it may take them a very long time" to get there - which, he could have added, under this plan they never will in any meaningful sense.
Hey, if you're a Palestinian, what's not to like in that?

But let's get more specific and we'll start with Netanyoyo's points, in that same order. Israel has been by law a Jewish state since July of 2018. Israeli Palestinians - about 20% of the population of Israel - were and are opposed to this because even as legally they are equal citizens, in practice they are not, but are treated as 2nd class or even sometimes as enemies. For the Palestinian Authority to accept that Israel is a Jewish state is seen as enshrining that status into law. Like in Animal Farm, everyone is equal except that some are more equal than others.

the "1967 borders"
Next: The Jordan valley is the breadbasket of the West Bank and to a significant degree of Israel. Remember that in the classic "1967" borders, the ones people usually think of when they picture the West Bank, the border of a Palestinian state created there would extended to the Jordan River. Under this plan,  it would not. The Jordan Valley would be retained by Israel. Taking access away means taking away Palestinian farmland and orchards, meaning Palestinian food and produce for export.

The deal does allow for any Palestinian who already owns land in the valley to continue to use it - subject to Israeli regulations and leases as well as “security requirements,” which have already been used on a number of occasions as a justification for seizing Palestinian land in the West Bank. That is, the "rights" of those farmers are subject to Israeli control and dependent on Israel's good will.

"Disaming Hamas" isn't even the half of it. The plan denies the Palestinians any right to any military force or any military self-defense and requires not only disarming but disbanding any militant group. Laughably, the document says that the Palestinians should be grateful for this, because they are "relieved of the burden of defense" because Israel will take care of it. Against who they would need defense is unclear - unless, of course, you include Israel.

Then there's the "right of return," an intensely emotional issue for Palestinians, a notion of returning home, similar to the dream of "next year in Jerusalem" for the Zionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Israelis have known for some time - and Palestinian leaders have made it clear for some time - that a negotiated Palestinian "right of return" could be limited and mostly symbolic, but demanding it be given up entirely - the text says “there shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel” - is beyond what the Palestinians could possibly accept. And again, and this is important, the Israelis know it.

As for Jerusalem, as others have noted before, is it a remarkable city in that it is important in three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Palestinian desire to have a capital in Jerusalem is every bit as strong as the Israeli desire. To declare Jerusalem to be all Israeli territory, with Muslims getting to their holy sites there only by permission of the Israelis, is for Palestinians a non-starter. To understand why, you need only think back to the years when Israelis could not get to the Wailing Wall, which was in what was then Jordan, and the emotional intensity among Jews when they gained access to it as a result of the 1967 war.

But don't worry: The plan says that the capital of the proposed Palestinian state can be in East Jerusalem - in other words, close to Jerusalem - and helpfully suggests it be called Al-Quds, which is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, so that's supposed to make everything okay. "Hey, you have a capital in Jerusalem. What's the problem?"

The Erickson Report, Page 1: "Deal of the Century" - Other Voices

The Erickson Report, Page 1: "Deal of the Century" - Other Voices

I noted last time that I would refrain from taking a real look at Tweetie-pie's "Deal of the Century" for Israel and the Palestinians because the text was being released almost literally at the same time I was recording the show so I would hold off until this time so we have the actual plan before us.

Well, it's this time now and the deal is every bit as bad as predicted. Wait, no that's wrong: Because as I said last time, with Tweetie-pie, the actuality is almost always worse than the prediction. And so it is here.

This thing is a monstrosity. It is horrendous, evil, bigoted, a slap in the face - make that a kick in the gut - make that two kicks in the gut and another to the head - not only of the Palestinians but to anyone who has held on to any shred of a hope for anything better out of the gang of thugs making up the US and Israeli governments. I could spend the entire show on how bad this is, in fact I probably will, on how much it reveals the not so much pro-Israel as anti-Palestinian bias at the heart of not just Trumpian but US foreign policy on the issue.

How bad is it? A few quotes:

Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories, says the deal doesn’t offer Palestinians a state but "a 21st century bantustan," consisting of "scattered archipelagos of non-contiguous territory completely surrounded by Israel."

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, says that under the plan,
Palestinians will not have self-determination and will continue to be completely dependent on Israel’s goodwill, with no political rights and no way to influence their future.
They will, the group went on, continue to be at the mercy of Israel’s draconian "permit regime" and would in fact be worse off because the plan "perpetuates the situation and gives it recognition." The group's executive director, Hagai El-Ad, added that “What the Palestinians are being ‘offered’ now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid."

Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO that has special consultative status with the UN, declares that the proposal “rewards Israel for its illegal colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory" by allowing Israel to annex more territory, "in flagrant violation of international law."

Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project and a former Israeli government negotiator under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, labeled it "a hate plan, not a peace plan" where "the language of peace had been cut and pasted, then put through a grinder, delivering an act of aggression dripping with the coarse syntax of racism," a plan which "oozes colonialist supremacism."

Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, called the plan "insidious" and "little more than a piece of political malware masquerading as a credible diplomatic initiative," one intended "not to bring about peace but to normalize the status quo, including Israel’s military rule over millions of Palestinians, and render it permanent."

Tareq Baconi, an analyst for The Crisis Group observed that “The plan sets out parameters that are impossible for Palestinians to accept, and effectively provides Israel with a blueprint to sustain the one-state reality that exists on the ground.”

For its part, on February 4 the European Union rejected the plan and opposed any Israeli move to annex more territory.

Oh, and Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren rejected the plan, along with fellow Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Chris Murphy and Reps. Mark Pocan, Pramila Jaypal, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Andy Levin, and Debbie Dingell.

The Erickson Report for February 12-25



The Erickson Report for February 12-25

[A note about sources: Pages 1-6 were originally to be one long piece and I usually only cite a reference the first time I use it. Which means some things in Page 2 may be based on references listed under Page 1, and so on.]

The Erickson Report, Page 1: "Deal of the Century" - Other Voices
https://fair.org/home/media-urge-palestinians-to-take-crumbs-because-democracy-is-not-on-offer/
https://prospect.org/world/dont-call-it-a-peace-plan-israel-palestine-trump/
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/29/trump-middle-east-peace-plan-trojan-horse-israel-occupation-permanent/
https://www.crisisgroup.org/
https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/eu-rejects-trump-mideast-plan-amid-annexation-concerns-68745475
https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/anti-peace-plan-many-democrats-are-denouncing-trumps-deal-century

The Erickson Report, Page 2: "Deal of the Century" - What's wrong with it
https://theintercept.com/2020/01/28/trump-netanyahu-dictate-terms-palestinian-surrender-israel-call-peace/
https://www.jns.org/knesset-makes-it-official-israel-is-a-jewish-state/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm
https://fair.org/home/ending-palestinian-statehood-as-path-to-palestinian-statehood/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Shana_Haba%27ah

The Erickson Report, Page 3: "Deal of the Century" - a "State of Palestine"
https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/revealed-trumps-deal-century-map-future-palestine-israel
https://www.alternet.org/2020/01/buried-in-the-trump-netanyahu-deal-is-an-effort-to-torpedo-a-war-crimes-investigation/
https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/01/14/justice-at-last-panic-in-israel-as-the-icc-takes-momentous-step-in-the-right-direction/
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/icc-judges-dash-hopes-swift-probe-israeli-war-crimes

The Erickson Report, Page 4: "Deal of the Century" - What about Israel?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEbwZfkeIt8
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/israeli-forces-prepare-demolish-100-palestinian-homes-190722032443910.html
https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/No-daylight-between-Trump-Netanyahu-but-will-the-sun-set-on-annexation-617049
https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Netanyahu-We-want-to-annex-settlements-with-US-support-not-without-it-617113

The Erickson Report, Page 5: "Deal of the Century" - an old game
http://whoviating.blogspot.com/2004/11/yasser-arafat.html
http://whoviating.blogspot.com/2004/07/peas-in-pod.html

The Erickson Report, Page 6: "Deal of the Century" - a Footnote
https://www.juancole.com/2020/02/blocking-palestinian-apartheid.html

Two Weeks of Stupid - Clowns and Outrages [the Clown]
https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-friends/fox-news-doctor-blames-obamacare-americans-dying-preventable-illnesses
Two Weeks of Stupid - Clowns and Outrages [the Outrage]
https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/31/us-trump-administration-abandons-landmine-ban
https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/03/united-states-landmine-policy-questions-and-answers
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/31/bringing-back-archaic-and-gruesome-weapons-trump-reverses-us-restrictions-landmines
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-107/

Saturday, February 01, 2020

The Erickson Report, Page 6: RIP

The Erickson Report, Page 6: RIP

We end with two extremely brief RIPs.

Terry Jones, a founding member of Monty Python's Flying Circus, died of a rare form of dementia at home at home in Highgate, London, on January 21. He was 77.

And LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26. He was 41.

The world is a bit darker today.

The Erickson Report, Page 5: We Are Not Alone

The Erickson Report, Page 5: We Are Not Alone

Now for an occasional segment called We Are Not Alone, when we remind ourselves that we are not alone on this planet and newsworthy things happen in places beyond our borders.

First we go to India, which has seen weeks of protests which have resulted in over two dozen protesters killed by police. The protesters, mostly but not exclusively Muslim, are opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA, which was passed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government in December.

The CAA offers an accelerated pathway to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Christian immigrants in India claiming religious persecution. The claim is that it is protection for people facing such persecution in neighboring countries, but the law will not bear the weight of that claim.

First, for the first time in the history of India as an independent nation and apparently contrary to its constitution, it makes religious affiliation a basis for citizenship and what's more does it in a discriminatory way: You may have noticed that Muslim immigrants claiming religious persecution in their home countries are not covered by that law.

Second, it does not require proof of claims of religious persecution on the part of those it does cover.

Third, it only applies to certain neighboring countries, specifically Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (marked in red). It does not apply to other neighboring countries such as China, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka (marked in blue), in all three of which there is documented evidence of persecution of religious minorities: Christians, Buddhists, and Uighur - who are Muslim - in China, the Royhingya, who are majority Muslim, in Myanmar, and Muslims in Sri Lanka.

India and neighbors
The difference in those two sets of countries is not a coincidence, which becomes even clearer when you consider that those marked in red are majority Muslim with Muslim governments - while those marked in blue are neither.

The law is part of and reflects a wave of extremist Hindu nationalism which has swept over India, where it has become commonplace for senior political figures to refer to Muslim immigrant workers as “infiltrators” or “termites" and to move to create a National Register of Citizens, requiring the production of documents to prove you are a citizen, an obstacle that of course will leave out many. But don't worry: Amit Shah, the home minister of India, has promised that the CAA will help anyone who fails that requirement to reclaim their citizenhip - except, that is, for Muslims who, again, are not covered by that law.
The law has been challenged in the courts as well as in the streets. We'll have to see what happens.

=

Another place that has seen demonstrations for some months is Iraq.

For three months, protesters all across Iraq but particularly in the south have been demanding the fall of a government they consider corrupt and controlled by Iran. Between 600 and 700 protesters are believed to have been killed by security forces or militia gunmen in that time.
Despite the official violence, protests have been strong enough that Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi announced in November he would resign - but he is still in place as a caretaker because no one has been found to replace him, something I suspect Mahdi knew when he made the offer. Those who have come forward have been rejected by the protesters because of their various parties' ties to Iran and other foreign countries, which is pretty much exactly what is being protested.

Thousands of protesters have turned out every day in Baghdad, turning the central Tahrir Square into a sort of community - pitching tents and organizing meals, even having doctors and dentists providing services.

Iraq
On January 24, separately from the occupation in Tahrir Square, a huge throng turned out in Baghdad to demand the withdrawal of US forces from the country. Many came out in response to a call from powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc controls the most seats in Parliament and who had been to that point supportive of the on-going protests.

But then al-Sadr reversed course and withdrew his support for the anti-government protests with the lame excuse of wanting to avoid “internal strife” - truly a strange sentiment coming immediately after a mass demonstration that he called for. It was not the first time in his political history that he has suddenly changed direction, but this one had immediate and violent consequences, as the very next day, January 25,  Iraqi security forces moved against the Tahrir Square protests.
They fired tear gas, they fired live ammunition, they burned tents as they stormed bridges, streets, and a highway interchange.
And not just in Baghdad: In the southern city of Nasriyah, at least three protesters were killed when security forces moved in to re-open a highway blocked by the demonstrations.

Altogether, at least 12 protesters were killed and 230 more were wounded by the assaults.
Without the support of al-Sadr, the broad-based and secular protest movement is likely to be crushed by government security forces and the Iran-backed militias ostensibly under government control.

But the protesters vowed not to give up and many said that would spend the night in Tahrir Square to try to hold it against government forces. As night fell, the Iraqi national anthem could be heard being sung there.

I'm sure more on this has happened since I recorded this. You should check it out.

=

Horn of Africa
Meanwhile, east Africa has gone Biblical: A plague of locusts has spread across Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya.

Over 100 billion of the insects, each of which consumes its own weight in food every day, are swarming through a region already reeling from a 2019 that started with drought and ended with deadly floods. The invasion is the biggest in Ethiopia and Somalia in 25 years, and the biggest in Kenya in 70 years.

Technically, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, labels the current invasion an "upsurge." Only if it gets worse and cannot be contained over a year or more, does it become a "plague." But I doubt that matters to those affected as they see crops and pasture devastated in a region which is already one of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

And worse may be on the way. When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow to 500 times what they are now before drier weather in June curbs their spread - which by then could include Uganda and South Sudan.

Locals have employed traditional means of fighting the onslaught: banging on cans, waving blankets, shaking trees, anything to keep the locusts moving and flying rather than eating. But the only effective means is aerial spraying of pesticides and it needs to be done before the March rains. Some is being done now, but not enough.

So what will it take to step up the spraying? According to the FAO, about $70 million in aid. Not billion, million. That's a little more than 1/3 of what Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have spent on TV ads. That's about 50 minutes worth of our military spending.

And the hungry of the world still need to beg.

By the way, does this have anything to do with climate change? Yes.

=

Epicenter of earthquake in Turkey
More bad news: A major earthquake hit eastern Turkey on January 24, leaving at least 38 dead and more than 1,600 injured.
At least 76 buildings were destroyed and hundreds more were heavily damaged.

The epicenter of the magnitude 6.7 quake was near the town of Sivrice, in eastern Elazig province about 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of the Turkish capital of Ankara.

Hundreds of aftershocks, one with a magnitude of 5.4, complicated relief efforts, which nonetheless saw dozens of people pulled from the rubble as 3500 rescue experts worked around the clock in sub-freezing temperatures.

This is neither the first nor the worst quake to hit Turkey; in fact, there was one in the same area ten years ago that killed 51 people and in 1999 two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey, killing around 18,000. But I don't imagine that is any comfort to the families of those killed this time.

=

I'm going to end this segment with this and I have a particular reason for putting it here.

US Women's March
The fourth annual Women's March was on January 18. Thousands turned out in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, and a number of other places in what NPR called as "a smaller but passionate crowd" which AP described as "focused on issues such as climate change, pay equity, reproductive rights, and immigration."

Okay, so why is this under "We Are Not Alone?" To make the point that this is not a US issue, this is not a US campaign, this is not a US effort. This is a world issue, a world campaign, a world effort.

On January 18 there were over 200 marches covering 24 countries across six continents. This is a worldwide campaign for women's freedom - by which I mean women's rights, women's dignity, women's autonomy. The issues women face vary from place to place and I daresay in intensity from place to place. But it still comes under one banner, one umbrella, one headline, one non-negotiable, bottom-line principle: women as full and equal human beings.

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

The Erickson Report, Page 4: Two Weeks of Stupid: Clowns and Outrages [the Outrages]

Now for the Outrages and we certainly had enough to choose from.

We had Tucks Carlson capping Faux News months-long attacks on the homeless with his own week-long diatribe against San Francisco and the homeless problem there under the claim that it's all because of "liberalism" - because, as is well known, the way you make people homeless is by caring about them.

We had examples of the Tweetie-pie gang just openly ignoring a court order not to deport someone who was challenging their deportation order - and worse, getting away with it because the court was too cowardly use its contempt powers.

We had that same gang finalizing a rule to roll back clean water protections for streams and wetlands, affecting not only areas protected by a 2015 rule but even some covered by the original Clean Water Act of 1972, overturning pollution controls that have stood for nearly 50 years.

However, our runner-up is an outrage I'm not going to talk about. It's one I was going to talk it about even though it technically hasn't happened yet: It's Tweetie-pie's so-called "Deal of the Century" for Israel and supposedly for Palestinians although from what's known of it certainly doesn't look that way. I was going to go over it based on what it was expected to include but as it develops it is being released almost literally the same moment I am recording this so I will hold off until next time when we can look at it more closely if only because with Tweetie-pie, the actuality is almost always worse than the prediction.

What we can say now is that based on what's known and expected, it is indeed the "Deal of the Century" for Israel - if the century is the 16th or 17th, full of colonialism, expansionism, oppression, and might makes right.

But if you really want an outrage, you have to go to the source, the real source of too many outrages. You have to go to Washington, DC. No, not the White House: Many of those outrages can be undone by a new administration. No, you have to leave the White House and go past the other end of the National Mall - to the Supreme Court.

You may recall that back in October I noted a proposal to greatly expand the definition of a "public charge" under immigration law and so also greatly restrict the number of people who could get green cards, cutting legal immigration by an estimated two-thirds.

There long had been an understanding that the term "public charge," which had no specific definition in law, referred to people who as immigrants would be primarily dependent on cash benefits from the government - more simply, they would be mostly on welfare.

Supreme Clown
The Whitest House wants to dramatically expand that definition to include noncash benefits such as Medicaid, supplemental nutrition aid - that is, SNAP, still often called Food Stamps - and federal housing assistance. Even using subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to purchase health insurance on an exchange could be affected. Anyone predicted to use any such benefits for more than 12 months out of any three year period would be denied a green card and note that is a standard that millions, even tens of millions, of our fellow citizens could not meet.

The proposal has been under legal challenge in multiple jurisdictions with mixed results. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a nationwide injunction, barring the change from being enforced while those suits worked their way through the courts.

But on January 27, the Supreme Court overturned that injunction, freeing Tweetie-pie's thugs to start turning away anyone they think is not rich enough - or white enough - to merit their imperial favor.

It's hard to grasp the moral depravity of this decision. Injunctions are supposed to consider the idea of "irreparable harm." Where is the irreparable harm to the administration, to anyone at all, in letting "public charge" continue to be understood the same way it has been all along while the suits work their way through the courts? None that I can find. On the other hand, the irreparable harm to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who will be denied entry across that same time is manifest and undeniable.

There is just as clearly no denying that people, people denied the chance to flee the crime, the violence, the oppression, the hunger, that drives them to seek refuge in a foreign country, that people will die because of this decision. That a majority of the Supreme Court just doesn't care is an affront to basic human decency. It is indeed an Outrage.
 
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